History

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1997

  1. 26 May

    Publication of the Report Into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, more commonly known as the Bringing Them Home Report. An abbreviated version is called 'Bringing them Home - Community Guide'. The inquiry made 54 recommendations, e.g. reparations and an apology to Aboriginal peoples.

    Key findings:

    • 10 to 33% of the Aboriginal children were removed from their families between 1910 and 1970.
    • The stolen Aboriginal children often suffered physical and sexual abuse and official bodies failed to protect them.
    • Many Aboriginal children were never paid for the work they did ('Stolen Wages').
    • Under international law, from approximately 1946 the policies of forcible removal amount to genocide.
    • The removal of Indigenous children continues today.

    However, there was no process established to monitor, evaluate or review each recommendation (which was the Report's 2nd recommendation).

    I know of no Indigenous person who told their story to the inquiry who wanted non-Indigenous Australians to feel guilty—they just wanted people to know the truth. — Mick Dodson [1]

  2. 27 May

    During the opening address of the Reconciliation Convention Premier Minister John Howard refers to the plight of Australia’s Aboriginal people as a mere ‘blemish’, dismissing centuries of dispossession and violence as insignificant. Indigenous delegates in the audience stand and turn their backs on the Prime Minister in protest. The PM snaps and screams at the audience in return.

    In facing the realities of the past, [...] we must not join those who would portray Australia's history since 1788 as little more than a disgraceful record of imperialism [...] such an approach will be repudiated by the overwhelming majority of Australians who are proud of what this country has achieved although inevitably acknowledging the blemishes in its past history. — Then-Prime Minister, John Howard

1998

  1. National Archives Australia - Bringing Them Home Indexing Project is launched. The project is focussed on the identification and preservation of Commonwealth records related to Indigenous people and communities.

  2. The federal government makes amendments to the Native Title Act which reduce protection of native title.

  3. Inaugural Sorry Day. The Bringing Them Home Report had suggested "to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects" on May 26 (recommendation #7a). Sorry Day offered the community the opportunity to be involved in activities to acknowledge the impact of the policies of forcible removal on Australia's Indigenous populations.

    Sorry Day has been an annual event since.

    An Aboriginal flag with the words '1788: Genocide begins...when will it end? Sorry.'.
    Sorry Day 2007. Someone had planted an Aboriginal flag on the ground expressing his sorrow for what had happened to Indigenous people.
  4. Federal election results in a second Aboriginal person elected to federal parliament - Senator Aden Ridgeway. He is to remain a Democrats Senator for New South Wales until 2005, the only Aboriginal person serving in the Australian parliament during that time.

  5. Aboriginal people across Australia hear with shock the comments of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Senator John Herron as he says stories of widespread removal of Aboriginal children from their families were exaggerated and that the removals that did occur were for lawful reasons "as occurs under child welfare policies today."

  6. Aboriginal athlete and Olympic gold medallist, Cathy Freeman, receives the Australian of the Year award. Famous Aboriginal people

  7. The idea of a 'document of reconciliation' develops as a way to deal with the sensitivities and differences of view which existed about a treaty. Other terms which could be used instead of 'document of reconciliation' could be settlement, compact, covenant or declaration, or an Aboriginal word, such as Makarrata, which has an appropriate meaning.

  8. Nova Peris wins gold in the 200m final and the 4x100m relay at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, becoming the first Australian to win international gold medals in two different sports, hockey and relay.

  9. January

    Australians for Native Title (ANT) launches the Sorry Books campaign where Australians can sign who want to do something in response to the federal government’s refusal to make a formal apology to the Stolen Generations.

    The Mayer of Randwick City Council (Sydney) apologises for the harm and hurt done to Aboriginal people in the past. Elizabeth Hyland is deeply saddened by the government's direction with reconciliation. She is very sorry for the role of her ancestors.
    The Mayer of Randwick City Council (Sydney) apologises for the harm and hurt done to Aboriginal people in the past. Elizabeth Hyland is deeply saddened by the government's direction with reconciliation. She is very sorry for the role of her ancestors.
    Sample Sorry Book entries. Children, celebrities, migrants and visitors alike signed Sorry Books. [2]
  10. 26 May

    HREOC releases the Social Justice Report 1998, which includes a summary of responses from the churches, and non-Indigenous community to the inquiry's recommendations plus an Implementation Progress Report.

  11. 26 May

    One year after the Bringing Them Home report the first Sorry Day is marked by hundreds of activities around the country. The Australian federal government does not take part in ‘Sorry Day’, saying people who removed Aboriginal children thought they were doing the right thing and people now should not have to say sorry for what people did in the past. Over 1 million signatures in thousands of Sorry Books speak a different language.

  12. September

    Prime Minister John Howard vehemently opposes a treaty, instead insisting on non-binding recognition: "I hope we have some kind of written understanding. I don't like the idea of a treaty because it implies that we are two nations. We are not, we are one nation. We are all Australians before anything else, one indivisible nation.

    "But I would certainly be in favour of a document that recognises the prior occupation of this country by the indigenous people, recognising their place as part of the Australian community and their right to preserve their distinctive culture. But within the notion of one undivided united Australian community where our first and foremost allegiance is to Australia and nothing else."

1999

  1. Mandatory sentencing in Western Australia and the Northern Territory becomes a national issue. Many call for these laws to be overturned because they have greater impact on Indigenous children than on non-Indigenous children.

  2. Federal parliament issues a statement of sincere regret over the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.

  3. 16-year-old Daniel Walbidi, from Yulparija, walks into Broome’s Short Street Gallery and asks owner Emily Rohr for painting supplies, inspiring his Yulparija elders, aged in their 70s and 80s, to start painting the stories of their ancestral desert lands they had left more than 40 years prior, and thus sparking an art movement. He went on to become one of Australia’s finest contemporary artists.

  4. 31 May

    Forced by a growing number of complaints of racial discrimination the Queensland government agrees to make a $25 million payout to thousands of Indigenous people who were employed by previous governments on Aboriginal reserves and paid at wages under the award rate in the years 1975 to 1986. The individual payout is $7,000.

    It was the first time any Queensland government openly admitted responsibility for discrimination and by far the largest settlement by any employer in respect of a discrimination matter.

    I grew up hungry. My hunger and malnutrition were a direct result of my family not being paid their full wages and entitlements. — Yvonne Butler, admitted to hospital for malnutrition in 1957 [3]

  5. 26 August

    Federal Parliament issues a statement of deep and sincere regret over the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.

2000

  1. Cathy Freeman wins gold in the women’s 400m at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The opening and closing ceremonies celebrated Indigenous cultural identity and history and provided some deft political comment on contemporary Aboriginal issues.

References

View article sources (3)

[1] 'Hands across the nation', Professor Mick Dodson, The Age, 13/2/2008, p.21
[2] Australian Institute Of Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Studies, Sorry Books Exhibition, www.aiatsis.gov.au/collections/exhibitions/sorrybooks/introduction.html
[3] Stolen Wages committee submissions, www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Completed_inquiries/2004-07/stolen_wages/submissions/sublist, submission #21

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2019, Timeline results for , <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/timeline/searchResults?page=24>, retrieved 24 May 2019

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